Rasht is the capital city of Gilan Province, Iran. It’s known as the “City of Rain” and is located about 320 km. north-west of Tehran. Rasht is the largest city on Iran’s Caspian Sea coast. It is a major trade centre between Caucasia, Russia and Iran using the port of Bandar-e Anzali. Rasht is also a major tourist centre with the resort of Masouleh in the adjacent mountains and the beaches of Caspian as some of the major attractions.
Historically, Rasht was a major transport and business centre which connected Iran to Russia and the rest of Europe, and because of this was known as the “Gate of Europe”. The city has a history that goes back to the 13th century but its modern history dates back to the Safavid era during which Rasht was a major silk trade centre with numerous textile workshops.
Rasht was first mentioned in historical documents in 682 CE, but it is certainly older than this and appears on the Peutinger Map of late antiquity. It has seen the Sassanid era, the armies of Peter the Great and later Russian rulers, and British colonialism. The people of Rasht also played a major role in the Constitutional Revolution of Iran.
The name Rasht comes most plausibly from the Persian verb ‘reshtan’, weaving. Rasht has, along with regions around Tabriz and Tehran, one of the earliest industry plants during the last quarter of the 19th century, prominently in fields such as fishing, caviar production, the Caspian sea oil pipeline construction and textiles. During the 20th century, until the mid-70s, Gilan and the Rasht region was the third-ranking industrial city in Iran by a number of workers and per capita productivity. It lost its cultural and industrial status to a large extent after the 1970s.
The people of Rasht played a prominent role in the instigation and radicalization of the Persian Constitutional Revolution (1905–1907). Rasht is the birthplace of Mīrzā Kūchak Khān, one of the leading figures of the Constitutional Revolution. His own movement in Gilan, which went by the name of Jangalis, represented a pro-modern and social democratic program for the reformation of Muslim rituals and traditions. Mirza established the short-lived Persian Socialist Soviet Republic in 1920 after the defeat of the constitutional forces and in coalition with Iranian communists. The republic had the support of the newly established Russian Red Army. The Soviet Government, after a turn of the military and political strategy proposed by Trotsky, withdrew its support and the republic itself was tormented by the inner conflicts between the newly established Iranian Communist Party (1919) and the Jangalis and other factions. The republic was finally defeated by the Iranian army under the command of Reza Shah.
The first national library of Iran was established in Rasht under the Qajar dynasty. Furthermore, Nasim e Shomal as the first modern newspaper of Iran after the constitutional revolution has been published in Rasht, but later moved its headquarters to Qazvin. The First Branch of the First Iranian Bank (Sepah Bank) was located in Rasht City. The first branch of 24/7 pharmacy (Karoon pharmacy) was built in Rasht City. The first school for girls and the first fire station in Iran were also built in Rasht City. The city of Rasht was the centre of Gilan and the centre of the first province of the country. During the Qajar period, along with economic development between Iran and Russia, Noghan (silkworm) trade and other products expanded. Thus, Rasht became the gateway to Europe in the 19th century. Gregory Valeriano Vich Melgunov, a Russian traveller who travelled to Rasht in 1896, wrote in his memoirs that the city at that time had 546 houses, 1021 shops and a population of 27,314. At that time, Rasht’s political credibility was such that the Russian, British, and Ottoman governments had consulates in Rasht.